A Tale of One House : A Memoir

My blockbuster tale from Amble, Northumberland of doomed love - loss - regret - domestic and legal drama, set against a backdrop of construction work, colossal family treachery, betrayal and death - it's all there.


1. The Salt Pans






It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of the Gordon's. On a beautiful sunny day in March 1973, my husband, Charlie Gordon, left the RAF, and we returned with two young daughters to his home town of Amble, a small fishing port on the Northumberland coast, dominated by a large caravan site. The sun would soon go behind the gathering storm clouds.

His parents owned the Salt Pans - a row of six unmodernised, Victorian terraced houses on the edge of the Links leading down to the sea. They had just sold 3, 4, and 5 as holiday homes, no. 2 was rented by a wonderful couple in their seventies, Jimmy and Sally Kennedy, they had lived there all their married life, since the late thirties. Jimmy, had lost the lower part of his left arm in a mining accident, he was a real character -  nice friendly couple, good neighbours: And given us no.6 (not the Deeds) a one-up, one-down, with lean-to on the front housing, stone sink with cold water tap and a lavatory. No mains gas - cooking with gas was calor gas. Low pressure water supply, which meant, when you flushed the lavatory you had to wait for the cistern to fill, before you could turn on the cold water tap. Septic tank sewage, which had to be 'unblocked' from time to time, to stop backflow to the house. This had to be done at high tide,  using a 'chip shop' strainer and chimney sweep rods. Main outfit for this sparkling engagement: denim dungarees; leather builders boots; plastic orange apron with 'Guinness is good for you' on it; pink marigold washing up gloves, and the compulsory, oh so lovely 1940's gas mask - what a sight for the seagulls. I would not have looked out of place at Sellafield........The heating was coal fire. No phone line - I had that put in. It took over a month, telegraph poles had to be erected across the Links to run the wire from the main road.

The parents said, ''Do the house up, add an extension and it will be a lovely place for you and the children''.  I still hear those fateful words today. What should have been an idyllic home turned into a nightmare, the end of the marriage and a traumatic and protracted divorce 1980 - 1996. 16 years must be a record.

To the side of the house was the eroding sea wall. First, we had to brick-up the holes in the wall to stop us falling into the North sea. This involved lowering buckets of bricks and cement over the wall onto the shore, and working against the tide.....  Now we start work on the house.  There was no money for a regular builder - so it was DIY. I worked during the week, when the girls where at nursery school, evenings, weekends and the summer holidays, a local man came down to help out. The back of the house had no door, just two small windows, one at the top of the stairs, this was taken out and filled in, and one at the bottom in the small pantry, off the living room, this is taken out and the back door put in its place - the  living room and bedroom windows are put in. The staircase was turned a 180 degrees, from south to north so it now faces the back door.  The council would not give permission for a porch. Round to the front of the house: The lean-to is demolished and we build the extension: bedroom, bathroom, dining room and kitchen. All the bricks and stone where reclamation and had to have the old cement chipped off them. We had a  cement mixer, the recipe was: 1 bag of cement + 3 of sand + a dash of lime - mix with water to a smooth consistency - keep wet.  I did the inner brick work, husband outer stone work. We lived in a caravan the parents had on the property for five months while we did the building. And got to use the old communal lavatory set between the middle of the houses. That house will always be part of me. The bricks and mortar are doused in my, blood, sweat, toil and tears  When the work was finished so was the money, my parents paid for all the internal work, plus the fixtures and fittings.

                                               The Feud -  Monster In Law

The husbands parents, both in their late sixties, lived at no.1 - later, known as Checkpoint Charlie.  His mother, Peggy Gordon, was a short, plump, very unpleasant woman - the original 'mother-in-law from hell' not happy unless she was making trouble, and thought nothing of going through your handbag, as she did mine. Reminded me of Ena Sharples from Coronation Street, minus the hairnet and drank cider instead of stout. She dealt in antiques, house clearance, had a shop in the town. His father, Charlie Gordon senior, was a tall, thin man, who had to do as he was told and follow orders. Peggy, sat in her kitchen and shop, making the bullets and Charlie senior, had to go out and fire them. We had been in the house just a few months, when husband, Charlie, had a dispute  with his mother. He was doing a house clearance for her and something went missing - I never knew what, she had him arrested, he was taken to the local police station for questioning and released without charge. 

We then received a letter from the parents solicitor, Hylton Young, giving us a months notice to leave the house.  We took legal advice, which was: ''To stay put and wait till they die''. The parents then started a war of attrition, more letters from their solicitor, Hylton Young, one telling me:'To take down the washing line.' and that is a story in itself. Another, telling us 'Every time we step outside the front door, we are on their property'  - how are we suppose to get in and out ? fly ?  A padlock and chain was put on one side of the access gate so you could only go in and out on foot, you had to leave the car on the Links.  There were running battles between father and son. Northumbria police were never away from the Salt Pans - the police station should have move down there.  On Guy Faukes Night we light a bonfire to the side of the house. Next thing we know, the police are down telling us to put it out, the parents had complained it was on their property - here we go again - they where very territorial. It was just none stop with them, the list is endless.  The house was in legal dispute, and they wasted an estate agents time, sending him down to tell me they are selling the house. Charlie, the husband has taken to drink, he is never at home now, either in the pub or at work. It's all going down the pan - the writings on the wall.  My lovely friend and neighbour, Sheila Stephenson, who with husband, Roy, and their son Michael, had the holiday home next door, no.5,  and still have. Said to me, ''It's like something from a Catherine Cookson novel. We are only here at the weekends, you have to live with this all the time. Get yourself out of here with the doctor''. I could have got out of this mess with my doctor John Quarrie.


                                                       John Quarrie  M D

Doctor John Quarrie came to Amble in 1974, taking over the practice of Doctor Robertson, who was retiring. John, lived in Warkworth -  a lovely picturesque village with a castle, just outside Amble - with his wife, also a doctor, and their two children, who were the same age as mine. From the start he became emotionally involved with me, and we were both the same age too -30.  He separated from his wife, and they divorced after three years.  He left Amble in April 1978 for London, asking me to go with him - I did not want to ruin his career. The next year he remarried, marrying Elspeth Earle on the rebound, and had two more children with her, Susanna and Benedict. I was not the only one affected by John's departure. He certainly left Amble under a cloud. He had started a group for children with disabilities and their parents, with evening meetings once a month in the surgery. John's final meeting did not go well, he did not want to be there, was in bad humour, he took his leaving present - a very nice jumper to wear for his sailing pastime - he sailed close to the wind with me, and left in a huff and a hurry, causing upset and anger to the group. Driving off down the A1, in his 2CV, to a new life in London, then Kent. Leaving a trail of destruction behind him.  And then the engineers came and I throw all that away too, as John said, ''You are good at throwing things away.''


                                       Considerate Construction 1978 - 1980


May 1978. The construction workers arrive. The Salt Pans is being connected to the towns main sewage system, which is being upgraded.  Now I will not have holidaymakers and day trippers, coming up from the shore, knocking on the front door to complain about the raw sewage on the beach. I always referred them to Northumbrian Water.  And the low pressure water supply to the property is going to be increased.  Back then, there was no communication no information given, no PR meetings etc , and the H&S act 1974 nowhere to be seen.  A man from Northumbrian Water called at the house, asked if I wanted to be connected, I said, 'Yes', signed the form, and that was it. The construction firm Volker Stevin - then Harbour & General of Gateshead - turned three years of my life into a SAS assault course, the Amble Links into The 8th Wonder of the World.  At one point, the only access to the house from the main road was through the nearby cemetery, climbing over the wall - not easy with bags of shopping and a bike. 'Safety First' was not Volker Stevin's motto.  I had done basic military training in the WRAF so was able to survive until, one evening, on my way home from visiting a friend I tripped and fell into their deep sewage trench on the Links, injuring myself and could not get out, sand and rubble rained in on me - I can tell you it was very frightening. Thankfully, it was summer, passing holidaymakers to the caravan site heard my shouts - got me out and home.  I tried to report the accident to Volker Stevin. It was impossible. The sexism and male chauvinism was appalling. All I got was raucous laughing, wolf whistling, and shouts of: ''We'll get you safely home from the pub next time Pet''.....hic.....burp.  They were a theodolite short of the perpendicular axis. In the middle of all this engineering chaos they have to lower my phone wire for a crane - phone stops working - no mobiles then. When I complained to the engineer in charge of the work, he just walk away - not very civil.   I thought the work could not get any worse - wrong -  they start blasting on the seabed for the outlet pipes from the pumping station at the harbour.  This took place over several days - between 5 and 6 pm - tea time - not far out to sea from my house.  The blast, blew the calor gas jets out on the cooker, shook the house and the eroding seawall so violently, I thought we would end up in a very large heap on the shore. Could have been made into a musical - on one evening of blasting, The Bee Gees hit song,  Stayin' Alive was playing on the radio !    

Summer 1980. The final 'finale'. The water supply to the Salt Pans had to be turned off for the new pipes  to be installed - now we will not have to wait ten hours for the bath to fill. And we are being connected to the main sewage system too - the wonders of modern sanitation.   Northumbrian Water, provided a water tank, which they had to park on the Links, because the mother (the father died in 79) would not allow them to bring the tank onto her property.... So began the daily trek onto the Links to fetch water, and I had to start using the launderette at the harbour again.  This routine had to continue for sometime after the water had been turned back on, because it is now full of sand and so is the washing machine. When the work was finished at the Salt Pans, Northumbrian Water/Volker Stevin decided to join in the feud - Lord knows why.  The mother, got the men to lock the access gates together. Now, the only way in or out is to squeeze through the narrow gap, between the gate post and the dunes or across the shore at low tide. It took me three days going back and forth to the firms office at the harbour, before the site manager got the men to open the gates.  And I left Amble.   Today, with the old knee injury from falling into the sewage trench I have difficulty getting to the pub !......   I loved Amble - still do. I never wanted to uproot and leave all my friends, but I  had to get away from the bad situation at the Saltpans, and the eldest daughter had just been diagnosed with diabetes. I was going to rent a house in the town, until I found out she would be in the same class as John Quarrie's eldest daughter, Rachel, when they started at Coquet High School that September, and his son, Ian, would also go there. After what had happened with him - crossing the line, breaking his hippocratic oath - it would have been a constant reminder, and he was coming back to see his children. I had no choice but to leave Amble.  

The Salt Pans should have been demolished in the early 60's, when Amble Urban Council placed a 'compulsory purchase order' on the property, just after Charlie and Peggy Gordon had bought it. Unfortunately, their solicitor, Hylton Young of Carse and Goodger, who would buy his antiques for Peggy Gordon at a knock down price, won the court case for them. And the rest is horrible history.  The case was reported in the Northumberland Gazette, with photo of Charlie and Peggy Gordon and Hylton Young outside the court house. 

                                        The Traumatic Divorce and The Daughter

At the time of the divorce, nothing could be done with the house, it was still in legal dispute with the mother, the father having died in 79.  So my property settlement had to be 'laid aside' till she died.  She died in 89 leaving the house to my now, ex-husbands brother, Reg. I had never meet him, he'd had no contact with his parents for years, he had seen his fathers obituary in the local newspaper when he died in 79. £££££ signs flash up, and he came calling on his mother. Ex- husband contests the Will and lost. Told me, ''I did not get the bloody house, and your not getting any bloody money'' - he never forgave me for leaving him, and he was determined I was not going to get my property settlement. So, I did not believe him or trust him. I wrote to his solicitor Andrew Garside and his mothers Hylton Young, both told me the same - the court had given the house to the brother.  I thought that was the end, no, worse, far worse was to came.  At this point, and all agree, I should have burnt the house to the ground. I now know my vengeful ex-husband had the Deeds to the house a few weeks later. I would have been arrested but could not be prosecuted for burning my own property down. And he would not have got my money. I would then, be the proud owner of, half a burnt-out plot in a prime location.....

Summer1991. The house is finally sold.  Ex- husband goes to live with his girlfriend Dorothy Swardy, a widow, in her council house - they meet in a local pub, eight years after I had left and divorced him. He spent the first three years blackmailing me, trying to get me to go back to him, threatening to stop the maintenance. He was made redundant in 1983, and said he was not going to work again to pay  maintenance for his daughters. And he never did. In 93 they marry, his daughters are not invited to the wedding - I wonder why ?  He dies suddenly in 95. The daughters go up to Amble for the funeral.  His widow is now ill, and they had moved into a council bungalow. The house is up for sale. Where did the money come from to buy this house ? It then transpires, that, back in 91 their father made an Appeal and the court awarded him the house - half of which was mine. He then sold it to Peter Sutherland for £32.000, and bought the council house. His solicitor Andrew Garside - who later went on to be the Coroner for Berwick - should have told me the house was being sold. The eldest daughter Catherine Gordon knew all this, she knew her father had got the house and sold it - she was staying with him at the Salt Pans the summer, he sold the house to Peter Sutherland, she saw and spoke to him when he called to arrange the sale. Catherine Gordon lived with me for four years and said nothing. Her father bought her silence, telling her, he would give her some of the money if she did not tell me. He never did. You would have thought her father not inviting her to his wedding, might have told her, he had no intention of giving her 'some of the money'. I should have removed this treacherous daughter from my life at this point but, for the sake of my baby granddaughter  who was only three months, and I had put my life on hold  to look after her fulltime, I decided to  'Let It Go' and continue contact. Big Mistake - she just carried on lying and cheating her way through my life - history repeating it's self.  I have no contact with her now or my grandchildren. This daughter is now dead to me.

                                          The Strange Death of Charlie Gordon

In late October 1995,  Charlie Gordon was found unconscious, with a head injury in a lay-by outside Amble by council workmen.  They called an ambulance but not the police - why not ?  He was taken to Wansbeck hospital in Ashington,  where he died a few days later, aged 55. It was a sudden, unexpected death and by law the police have to be involved and the coroner informed. The law was broken by the hospital doctor who signed the death certificate and the family's grimy solicitor, Hylton Young. It was all covered up and swept under the carpet because Charlie Gordon's widow was ill.

A few years later, his youngest brother Francis Gordon, was found dead in his house in Amble, a passing neighbour noticed he had been lying in the same position on the settee for a few days and called the police.  And there was an Inquest.    I contacted the Coroner's office in Berwick, to ask why there was no Inquest for Charlie Gordon - I was told there should have been one  ?  Grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, has a lot to answer for - he has blood on his hands.

                                   Newcastle Court Ordeal - My Anger and Fury and Trauma.

November 1995. Now I try to get the money for my house. I instruct a solicitor, a 'stop' is put on the sale of the house in Amble.  The following year I have to go up to Newcastle for the Hearing. It was just a kangaroo court - a behind - closed - doors stitch - up, absolutely horrendous. I will never recover from the trauma - no woman could. My vengeful ex- husband  deliberately cheated me out of my property settlement - he stole my money when he sold the marital home to Peter Sutherland in 1991. His solicitor should have told me the house was being sold, and now I'm being victimized because his widow died a few weeks before the Hearing - the villain in the piece for trying to get what is rightfully and legally mine. It was not me who put Dorothy Gordon through litigation, that was down to her late husband Charlie Gordon, for stealing my money. When the Judge came into the court you could see straight away, he was not 'with me', he just glared at me. I felt I was on trail for murder, all that was missing was the black silk square on his head.  It had all been decided in his chambers where, with the oppositions barrister, instructed by their solicitor, none other, than grimy Hylton Young of Carse and Goodger in Amble they intentionally disregarded the courts legal obligations.   At the end of this living nightmare he said to me:

''You should have done something about the money at the time ( I DID ) and you are not entitled to any now. There is to be no Appeal and no more court case involving the Gordon's''. ?

I'm writing with anger and fury. The whole thing was a stitch up.  This vindictive, psychopathic Judge gave a personal judgement not a legal one. He knew very well, ''I did do something about the money at the time,'' It was in my Affidavit, and he had the letters from the solicitors, telling me the court had given the house to the brother.  My barrister was useless. Just sat there like a dummy, he did not speak for me once.   Why would he do that ?  He was not going to make waves knowing I was the victim of a stitch up.  He was just there for the free trip to Newcastle, staying in a plush hotel with all the fine wining and dining, and of course, the very large fee - all courtesy of the taxpayer.   He did not give a monkey's - typical of the legal profession.

Along with my parents, I put more money into the marital home than Charlie Gordon. Yet, he and his second family - who had nothing before they meet him, and saw him coming with his money and mine - walked away with everything. It was spend, spend, spend. He bought them the council house, cars, holidays - Disney Land 'Florida' ...... He was spending my money. It was like winning the lottery for them.

Every JUDGE in this country should be made to read my divorce horror story. And it should be made compulsory reading for every woman going through a divorce. So, she can be eternally grateful for what she DID GET..

I was dealt a triple whammy: A vengeful ex-husband in league with his grimy solicitor Andrew Garside: A treacherous daughter Catherine Gordon - I will never forget that terrible day in Nov. 1995, when my youngest daughter phoned from Amble to tell me about my house. Everything stood still. I could not  take it in, still can't - in league with her father: A bent, psychopathic Judge Jeffreys  in league with bent grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, who is now retired and living in Amble with his antiques and blood money. You never recover from trauma, you just learn to live with it.

So I have to be unique, the only woman in existence, who, after twelve years of marriage, two children and building the marital home, came away from her divorce with literally nothing. Not even some of my own possession with a court order, when I went back to the Salt Pans in 1980 to collect them, Charlie Gordon had been drinking and turned violent towards me -  my nice, kind neighbour, Hilary Hewson, who is now living permanently at no.3, with her family since the utility upgrade, called the police - police Sgt. came down and said,''Take what you have got and go.''? So much for the court order, a useless piece of paper. My story is a searing indictment of the legal and judicial system and police force in this country - rotten, corrupt and Masonic.

My solicitor was Cheryl Lewis, sometime later, she was murdered on holiday in Egypt - poisoned with cyanide by her boyfriend, John Allan. The case was known as Death on the Nile.   Friends asked me if I had done it -  I would have gone for Judge Jeffreys, grimy solicitor Hylton Young, then Catherine Gordon.

Did you know: St. Stephen is patron saint of bricklayers.  He didn't do much for me. I built my house in 1973 for next to nothing, and then lost it. Today it is worth £200.000.










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